LITURGY OF MATINS
The prayer of the first of the seven CANONICAL HOURS, to be said at daybreak, with reference to the coming of the True Light (i.e., Jesus Christ). It was instituted to offer thanks to God for having brought believers safely to the morning.
Morning prayer was prescribed in the Constitutions of the Holy Apostles (1951, p. 496): “Offer up your prayers in the morning, at the third hour, the sixth, the ninth, the evening, and at the cockcrowing: in the morning, returning thanks that the Lord has sent you light, that He has brought you past the night, and brought on the day.”
Reference to morning prayer occurs also in the writings of most of the early fathers. Dwelling upon the special significance of each canonical hour, Saint Cyprian (The Treatises 4.34-35) wrote: “But for us, beloved brethren, besides the hours of prayer observed of old, both the times and the sacraments have not increased in number. For we must also pray in the morning, that the Lord’s resurrection may be celebrated by morning prayer. . . . Also at the sunsetting and at the decline of day . . . when we pray and ask that light may return to us again, we pray for the advent of Christ.”
Historically, morning prayer was originally performed following the Psalmody of Midnight and, in a later development, became a separate office. This is evident from the writings of John CASSIAN (c. 360-435), who, as a young man, joined a monastery at Bethlehem and later studied monasticism in Egypt. He paid tribute to the rigorous practices of Egyptian monks in SCETIS, in contrast with those of their Western counterparts: “But you must know that this Mattins, which is now very generally observed in western countries, was appointed as a canonical office in our own day, and also in our own monastery, where our Lord Jesus Christ was born.”
The institution of the Office of Morning Prayer had, however, been mentioned by Saint BASIL THE GREAT (c. 330-379) prior to the time of John Cassian: “Among us the people go at night to the house of prayers, and, in distress, affliction, and continual tears, making confession to God, at last rise from their prayers and begin to sing psalms . . . and so after passing the night in various psalmody, praying at intervals as the day begins to dawn, all together, as with one voice and one heart, raise the psalm of confession to the Lord, each forming for himself his own expression of penitence” (Letters 207, 3 [p. 247]).
As in all seven canonical hours, the first hour starts with an introductory section consisting of the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer of thanksgiving, and Psalm 50.
The prelude to the morning prayer service is characterized by a tone of earnest request, gradually increasing in fervor: “O come, let us worship! O come, let us request Christ our God! O come, let us worship! O come, let us beg Christ our King! O come, let us worship! O come, let us entreat Christ our Savior!”
The Pauline-epistle reading, which is taken from Ephesians 4:1-5, incorporates a Christian plan of action for the day, supplied by Saint Paul’s words, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love. . . .”
This is followed by the reading of nineteen Psalms, as follows: Psalms 1-6, 8, 12, 13, 15, 16, 19, 25, 27, 63, 67, 70, 113, and 143. The Gospel reading is taken from John 1:1-17 and is followed by a commentary, the Angelic PSALMODY, the TRISAGION, and the creed, preceded by its introduction. “Kyrie Eleison” is then said forty-one times, followed by the absolution and the Lord’s Prayer.